The Last Days of New Paris
Locus Award Best Fantasy Novel
A thriller of a war that never was - of survival in an impossible city - of surreal cataclysm. In The Last Days of New Paris, China Miéville entwines true historical events and people with his daring, uniquely imaginative brand of fiction, reconfiguring history and art into something new.
1941. In the chaos of wartime Marseille, American engineer and occult disciple Jack Parsons stumbles onto a clandestine anti-Nazi group, including Surrealist theorist André Breton. In the strange games of dissident diplomats, exiled revolutionaries, and avant-garde artists, Parsons finds and channels hope. But what he unwittingly unleashes is the power of dreams and nightmares, changing the war and the world for ever.
1950. A lone Surrealist fighter, Thibaut, walks a new, hallucinogenic Paris, where Nazis and the Resistance are trapped in unending conflict, and the streets are stalked by living images and texts - and by the forces of Hell. To escape the city, Thibaut must join forces with Sam, an American photographer intent on recording the ruins, and make common cause with a powerful, enigmatic figure of chance and rebellion: the exquisite corpse.
But Sam is being hunted. And new secrets will emerge that will test all their loyalties - to each other, to Paris old and new, and to reality itself.
A dazzling scholarly fantasy . . . The bestiary of surrealist manifs, or manifestations, that Miéville parades before us is dazzling . . . the effect is exhilaratingly precise and serious, as though Albert Camus had rewritten Raiders of the Lost Ark . . . At the story’s climax it turns out to be satisfyingly horrible, but not as bad as what follows – a brilliantly eerie apparition that it would be invidious to reveal here . . . This intense, scholarly fantasy speaks to our age.
Treading the line between beauty and horror, history and fantasy, Miéville filters a clash of art and philistinism through the medium of wartime spy fiction. This dense, clever book’s flights of fancy are grounded in details such as “a miraculously uneaten cat” dashing for cover, the whole thing rounded off with a knowing satirical wink.
[The Last Days of New Paris] has a hallucinatory jeu d’esprit . . . Fun, very inventive and thoughtful, particularly for readers interested in Surrealism’s revolutionary politics. I loved it.